B school programs train students to act globally

By Mike Hoban, September 2, 2005

Kaidra Mitchell was a grad student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management in 2001 when she had an epiphany.

During a class, she listened to a talk by Endeavor Initiative, a nonprofit group that supports entrepreneurs in developing economies, and she realized that she would feel more passionate about working in a developing economy than as a management consultant in the United States.

She took an internship with Endeavor at a startup in Brazil for her course work, and following its completion, worked as a teacher’s assistant with MIT’s Global Entrepreneurship Lab, or G-Lab.

The work whet her appetite for working with developing economies, and after graduation, she took a position as a banking consultant in Tajikistan, the former Soviet Union province, assisting small enterprises with loans and business expertise in the impoverished nation.

Developed by Richard Locke and colleague Simon Johnson of the Sloan School, G-Lab is designed to teach MBA students about entrepreneurship in developing countries by placing them in internships with startup companies in various emerging markets.

And while most MBAs won’t be heading off to third-world economies with their newly acquired skills, G-Lab is one of a number of area business schools preparing their graduates for the global economy.

“The idea behind the course is that if you really want to understand what’s going on in the global economy, you have to do two things,” says Locke. “One, you have to not assume that the U.S. is the model that every other economy is trying to approximate. And two, you’ve got to get out of the classroom and experience how business is done in the real world.”

G-lab accomplishes this by matching four-student teams to a project overseas for a host company. The teams begin their research work on campus, and after developing their project strategy, communicating with host companies via phone and e-mail, they serve an intensive three- to four-week internship with the company in-country. At the end of the internship, teams present their conclusions to management and deliver reports and backup data detailing their analysis to faculty.

Liesbet Peeters, a 2005 Sloan grad who interned in India and is currently working in Swaziland for the World Bank, found the G-Lab experience “invaluable.”

“The (G-lab program) definitely provides a well-rounded structure to make you think about many different dimensions as a business leader,” she says. “It exposes you to an incredibly diverse group of extremely bright people.”

Proustian approach

Harry Lane, co-founder of Northeastern University’s Institute for Global Innovation Management, greets each fresh crop of students in his “executing global management” executive MBA class with a Marcel Proust adage: “The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

“We talk about globalization, and to most people that means going somewhere else,” he says. “What we try to instill in people is a global mind-set. We try to get them to see that you don’t have to go somewhere else to participate in the global economy.”

Which doesn’t imply that the students stay put on Huntington Avenue. Grad students are required to go on two trips for the program, the first being a weeklong trip to Instituto Panamericano de Alta Direccion de Empresa, Mexico’s premier business school, for its International Week. Students from North and South America, Germany and the Netherlands work in multicultural teams, address current business phenomena from an intercultural perspective, visit Mexican companies and attend cultural and social events.

The second trip takes them to France and the Czech Republic for 10 days. The purpose of the trip is to observe their respective business practices.

At Suffolk University, Shahriar Khaksari, dean of the international business program, has developed a Global MBA program for the students at the Sawyer School of Management. Modeled after South Carolina’s Moore School of Business and The Garvin School of International Management in Arizona, the curriculum emphasizes extensive out-of-country experience.

The 15-month program requires students to attend at least one international seminar abroad during the winter or spring break, as well as a three-month internship outside their home country. At the conclusion of the internship, students attend the two-week Capstone Seminar, where they share their experiences with students and faculty.

But Khaksari believes that the real strength of his 3-year-old program lies in the faculty. “We have a faculty that has international experience in terms of teaching, research, and travel. If you don’t have the experience, you can’t teach it.”

Babson College’s MBA program has had a global requirement since 1976, and the school established its Glavin Center for Global Management in 1997.

“We recognized the importance of global thinking early on,” says Marilyn Snyder, the Wellesley school’s deputy director of the program.

As part of the curriculum, students can choose to do a two-week offshore elective, take a longer internship between semesters, or study abroad for a semester at an affiliated school.

“Our strength is our entrepreneurship programs,” says Snyder. “Babson is continuously ranked as the top entrepreneurial school in the U.S., and we really want our students to be able to compete globally in the marketplace.”